By Robert Borowik
During my senior year at Marquette University, I was awarded a Fulbright Grant, and I am currently working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant and U.S. Cultural Ambassador in Azerbaijan. Through this program I have the unique opportunity to live in a part of the world that few Americans have visited while teaching English to Azerbaijani high-schoolers. With the grant came several unexpected opportunities, such as attending parties at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence or even shaking hands with Pope Francis during his first visit to Azerbaijan!
I teach at the Physics, Math and Informatics Lyceum, a high school in Baku where a large portion of the students are from the regions of Azerbaijan and live at the school. During my first weeks here, I worked with the teachers to set up a new English Center with support from British Council and the Azerbaijan Ministry of Education. Since its opening in late October (see picture to the right, which includes Robert, Dr. Carole Crofts, British Ambassador to Azerbaijan, and representatives of British Council and the Azerbaijan Ministry of Education ), I have been leading conversation classes with small groups of students where they practice their English speaking skills as we discuss various topics regarding the United States and the world.
In addition to teaching, I have been exploring the fascinating, yet little-known, history and culture of Azerbaijan. The country is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Qobustan where 6,000 petroglyphs dating back tens of thousands of years cover a mountainside (featured in the photograph to the left). Historic synagogues and mosques can be found in the city of Quba where Muslims and Jews have lived side by side for centuries. Memorials dedicated to more recent historical events, massacres of Azerbaijanis perpetrated by Armenian Bolsheviks in 1917, dot the entire country. But through their difficult past, Azerbaijanis have maintained a warm hospitality to visitors of the country.
As an American, Cultural Ambassador, and English teacher, my role is multifaceted. Not only do I teach my students English, but I am also exploring the fascinating culture and history of Azerbaijan that was so heavily impacted by decades of Soviet rule. Working with the Fulbright Program in Azerbaijan has changed my perspectives on the world, as I need to be amenable to the ever changing situations in which I find myself. I am very grateful for what I have already experienced and excited for what lies ahead.
Robert Borowik graduated from Marquette University in spring 2016 with majors in secondary education, history and economics. He was the president of the Polish Club and was a board member of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society.